Videotherapy Video: Cool Runnings Sixth Grade

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Videotherapy Video: Cool Runnings

  • Sixth Grade

  • Social Studies Lesson

  • By : Martha Muñoz

  • SPED 620 Education in A Diverse Society

  • April 2005

Cool Runnings ( 1993)

  • Cast: John Candy, Leon, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba Director: Jon Turteltaub Producer: Dawn Steel Screenplay: Lynn Siefert, Tommy Swerdlow, and Michael Goldberg Cinematography: Phedon Papamichael Music: Hans Zimmer U.S. Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures


  • Students will learn that effort and determination, in the pursuit of one’s goals, lead to success and achievement.

  • Students will understand that resourcefulness in finding solutions leads to achievement of one’s goals.

  • Students will realize that acceptance and respect of one’s own identity obtains the respect of society and success.

  • Students will observe how oversimplified ideas of people leads to stereotypes, affecting the image of a group of people.

  • Students will understand that fear and ignorance are the origin of the defense mechanism known as prejudice and stereotyping, which can be overcome through show of individual character.

Grade Level and Classroom Setting

  • This lesson has been designed for a sixth grade social studies course. It would be adequate for the middle grades, 6-8, adapting some of the opening and follow-up activities.

  • Sixth grade social studies is a general geography course.

  • This lesson will be part of the unit on cultures.

  • Before beginning this lesson students have read the chapter on culture found in their textbook (Geography – Tools and Concepts) and completed the review questions found at the end of the chapter.

Required Time

  • The opening activities will take approximately two 75 minute periods

  • Although the movie is 90 minutes long, it will be viewed over three 75 minute periods.

  • Discussion questions will take two 75 minute periods

  • Follow up quotation activity and people tags will take two 75 minute periods

  • Other follow-up activities will vary in time span depending on the depth in which they will be pursued.


  • Cool Runnings is a fictional movie based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team participating in the 1988 Winter Olympics. It starts out as a comedy making the audience laugh during the first half of the movie. Once the characters are taken to Canada, the movie becomes a bit more dramatic showing strength and determination in the characters.

  • After a dramatic fall in the final Olympic trials, Derice Bannock is convinced he needs to go to the Olympic Games. In looking for an alternative, he finds out that there could be a chance in a totally different sport. He then starts his quest to form the first Jamaican Bobsled team. Although it seems impossible, he is convinced that this Caribbean island can participate in the Winter Olympics.

  • He convinces Irvin Blitzer, a disgraced gold medal bobsledder, to coach him. He finds the only three other Jamaicans who are willing to join him in this feat. The team is made up of Sanka, Derice’s best friend, Yul Brenner, another disqualified sprinter who wishes to change his future, and Junior, the sprinter who made both Derice and Yul fall during the trials.

  • The characters must face all kinds of odds such as lack of adequate conditions for practice, no budget, unfamiliarity with winter conditions, racism, prejudice, humiliation and rejection. Despite all of this they are determined to prove to themselves and the world that they can do it. They manage to qualify and though they do not win the gold medal their triumph is much greater.


  • Perseverance

  • Setting of goals

  • Self determination

  • Overcoming odds

  • National identity and pride

  • Stereotyping

Introductory Activities

  • The first Opening activity:

    • Students will work on Cultural Features Iceberg Activity. They will draw a an iceberg in their notebooks, having a great portion underwater and part out of the water. Discuss what an iceberg is and how part is clearly evident, but another part is hidden underwater.
    • They will be given a list of 26 culture features. As a group we will read the list and discusses the different features of culture presented on the list, recognizing how they can be considered a feature of culture.
    • Students will then place the features on the iceberg. Those features which are clearly evident will be found on the tip of the iceberg. Features that are not as evident will be placed under water

Introductory Activities

  • Second Opening Activity

  • Have the students answer the following in small groups:

    • Locate the following countries on the World map: Jamaica, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, USA, Russia
    • Write the absolute location of the capital in your notebooks. Write at least one fact for the relative location of each country.
    • Look at the physical map and name some of the landforms for these countries
    • Based on these facts explain what type of climate these countries could have.
  • Discuss their answer and explain that they will find members of each of these countries in the movie they are about to watch.


  • Have the students define the following terms:

    • Stereotype
    • Prejudice
  • Give the students the first nine content questions and read them together.

  • Watch the first 30 minutes of the film.

  • Stop the film and let the students get into groups of three or four.

  • Assign each group two or three questions to answer.

  • Once each group has answered the questions. Have the whole class share their answers.


  • Hand the students the second set of content questions. Read them together, so they know what they need to observe during the film.

  • Watch the rest of the movie.

  • Divide the class into groups again. Try to get the students into different groups this time.

  • Have each group answer two or three content questions

  • Share answers.


  • Distribute the discussion questions.

  • Read all the questions together with the students.

  • Have students answer the discussion questions.

  • Allow each student to choose one or two of his/her answers to share with the class. Let others participate with their own ideas and connections.

Content Questions

  • How important is it for Derise to win the race – 100 m sprint?

  • How do you think Derice feels when he falls in the race? If you were Derice what would you have done?

  • What are the three sports Jamaica traditionally considers Olympic Sports?

  • What does the President of the Olympic committee suggest Derice should do?

  • Why does Derice decide to start Bobsledding

  • What is Mr. Cooldrige’s idea of Irvin Blitzer?

  • What difficulties does Mr. Blitzer mention for starting a bobsledding team in Jamaica?

  • How does Derice convince Mr. Blitzer to coach him?

Content Questions

  • Why does Yul Brenner join the bobsled team?

  • How does Yul react to Junior when he joins the Bobsled team?

  • Why does Coach Blitzer choose Derise as the driver? What has Derise shown in his personality?

  • What is the Police’s reaction when they are told this is a Jamaican Bobsled team?

Content Questions

  • Explain the executive’s reaction when they are asked to sponsor the Jamaican Bobsled team? If you were Derice what would you have done?

  • How do you think Derice felt when the U.S. coach told him Blitzer’s story? Have you ever felt this way about someone you value?

  • How does Derice feel about the Swiss and how does his behavior reflect this?

  • Why do you think they started imitating the Swiss team?

  • How does Yul and Junior’s relationship change over time?

Discussion Questions

  • From what you saw in the movie, name at least five similarities between Jamaica and Colombia?

  • How does the movie use stereotypes to show several of the countries participating in the Olympics? Give an example of a movie where stereotypes of Colombia have been used? Do you agree with those stereotypes? Do you think the stereotypes this movie uses are accurate?

  • Discuss how the following personalities acted in stereotypical manner:

    • The head of the Olympic committee
    • Junior’s father ( The rich man)
    • President of the Jamaican Olympic Committee?
  • Explain how prejudice is demonstrated in the scene when Coach Blitzer goes to ask the alliance why they have been disqualified? Has prejudice of any kind ever affected your own decisions?

Discussion Questions

  • How does the relationship of Coach Blitzer with Kurt show how revenge affects others that are not part of the problem?

  • When does the way the public views the Jamaican team change? Do you think that determination made a difference in this?

  • Was national pride important for the success of the team? Do you think that as Colombians you have to show national pride when you are somewhere else? Give examples of how you could do this if you were in another country?

  • How did losers turn into champions at the end?

  • How did determination make heroes?

Discussion Questions

  • How does seeing and taking a chance make a difference in life? Think of a time when you had a chance to make a difference in your life? Did you take it or not?

  • How was perseverance important to achieve success? Think of a time in your life when you did or did not demonstrate perseverance? How did this affect you?

  • Explain how each of the characters change and grew during the movie. How did the different events in the movie help them change? Choose one of the characters. Describe his personality. Explain how he is similar or different to you.

  • At the end, what was more important to win the gold medal or return as equals? Why?

Follow-up Activities Quotation Activity

  • Have students write a paragraph interpreting each quote from the movie and relate it to your own experience.

  • 1. Sanka: “They hate us.”

    • Yul: “ We’re different. People are afraid of what's different”
    • 2. Yul talking with Junior:
    • “It is what you see in yourself that counts”
    • 3. Coach Blitzer to Derice:
    • “If your not enough without a gold medal than you won’t be enough with it”
    • 4. Zanka to Derice:
    • “The right foot for us is not the Swiss foot …The best we can be is Jamaican. If we look Jamaican, eat Jamaica, walk Jamaican, than we better bobsled Jamaican.”

Follow up Activities People Tags

  • Do the “People tags” Activity from the Peace Corps Educational lessons.

    • Students will be given various items they have bought as gifts for people. Then they will be given the names of these people, their age, relationship or job. They must decide which gift belongs to whom.
    • Then they will be given a more detailed description of each person including hobbies and special tastes. This will let them realize how they can make mistakes when they try to judge someone because of their label. They will understand how important it is to really get to know someone before they come up with general assumptions.

Follow up Activities Research

  • Students research the true story of the Jamaican bobsled team and what has happened to them since 1988. Find out about this sport in Jamaica today and its participation in other Olympic games.

  • Choose a country you know very little of to develop your research project.

    • Write as many preconception about this country.
    • Put your preconceptions into your folder in the filing cabinet.
    • After you finish your research you will look at your preconceptions and explain how these have changed after finishing you research on that country. Include an explanation of how getting to know a culture will prevent stereotypes and prejudice.


  • Jacobs, Heidi. Geography: Tools and Concepts. Massachusetts. 1998.

  • Peace Corps. Looking at Ourselves and Others. World Wise Schools. (accessed March 2005)

  • Siefert, L, Swerdlow, T and Goldberg, M. Cool Runnings. Walt Disney Pictures. 1993.

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